20th Century's Greatest Hits: 100 English-Language Books of Fiction

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The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits: 100 English-Language Books of Fiction is a popular "best of" list compiled by Larry McCaffery largely in response to the Modern Library 100 Best Novels list (1999), which McCaffery considered out of touch with 20th-century fiction. McCaffery wrote that he saw his list "as a means of sharing with readers my own views about what books are going to be read 100 or 1000 years from now".[1] The list includes many books not included in the Modern Library list, including five of his top ten, Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, Robert Coover's The Public Burning, Samuel Beckett’s Trilogy (Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable), Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans, and William S. Burrough's The Nova Trilogy.

Topping the list is Vladimir Nabokov's 1962 novel Pale Fire, which McCaffery called the "most audaciously conceived novel of the century." Not counting the tetralogies of Rikki Ducornet (#35) and Gene Wolfe (#78), the most cited author is James Joyce, whose four works, Ulysses (#2), Finnegans Wake (#10), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (#21), and Dubliners (#63), all made the list. Robert Coover and William H. Gass each have three works on the list, while Samuel Delany, Don DeLillo, William Faulkner, Raymond Federman, William Gaddis, Vladimir Nabokov, and William Vollmann have two apiece.[2]

Common titles[edit]

Altogether, there are 34 titles in common between the Modern Library list and the Greatest Hits list:

  1. 1984
  2. The Ambassadors
  3. An American Tragedy
  4. Brave New World
  5. Catch-22
  6. Catcher in the Rye
  7. A Clockwork Orange
  8. The Day of the Locust
  9. Finnegans Wake
  10. The Grapes of Wrath
  11. The Great Gatsby
  12. Heart of Darkness
  13. The House of Mirth
  14. Invisible Man
  15. Ironweed*
  16. Lolita
  17. Midnight's Children
  18. The Naked and the Dead
  19. Native Son
  20. On the Road
  21. Pale Fire
  22. A Passage to India
  23. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  24. The Sheltering Sky
  25. Slaughterhouse-Five
  26. The Sound and the Fury
  27. The Sun Also Rises
  28. To the Lighthouse
  29. Tropic of Cancer
  30. Ulysses
  31. Under the Volcano
  32. The USA Trilogy
  33. Winesburg, Ohio
  34. Women in Love

Ironweed was included in a single entry with its predecessors in the Albany Trilogy, rather than as a solo work as it was on the Modern Library list.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Top 100 List with comments at Spineless Books' Larry McCaffery archive
  2. ^ http://www.litline.org/ABR/Issues/Volume20/Issue6/abr100.html

External links[edit]